The Bulk Cupboard

As may be observed from my "Trying to Eat Cheap" series, I continue to believe in the thriftiness of buying in bulk. We invested in a bunch of medium- and large-sized canning jars to store bulk items. I think my rows of beans and grains and flours look so tidy and inspiring in the plain wood cupboard. It makes me feel all New England-y.

But I am still searching for good keeper recipes that will give me more versatility with my bulk collection. My problem is that for any one bulk item, say pinto beans, there's only one thing I know how to make with it, say chili. So I'm throwing open my cupboard to comments and advice. I'll list what I've got and the one thing I know how to make. What do you like to make? Let's share!

  • Millet: Replacement for brown rice--basically a plain starch side dish.
  • Brown rice: Use this all the time as a side dish. Or in macrobiotic casserole.
  • Aduki beans: Boil them up and add squash or sweet potato, then refry with chili powder as a taco or burrito filling.
  • Black beans: #1 bean in 3-bean chili.
  • Pinto beans: #2 bean in 3-bean chili
  • Kidney beans: #3 bean in 3-bean chili. These are my favorite cuz they're big & meaty!
  • White beans: Use to bulk up quinoa salad. Recently tried in slow cooker with chicken.
  • buckwheat: Dislike the taste unless it's in my wakame buckwheat soup
  • quinoa: Use for quinoa salad/tabbouleh.
  • rolled oats: Oatmeal! Eat this almost every morning. Sometimes put oats in apple crisp.
  • popcorn: for nights when I don't have ice cream
  • white rice: got it for a dinner party, no clue what it's for
  • lentils: boil with garlic and take for lunch 4 times a week--lots of hot sauce added
  • sweet brown rice: the other part of my lentil lunch
  • barley: Use in barley mushroom soup
  • flour: Use in either muffins or pizza crust. I mix & match different flours.
  • mung beans: see my sprouting experiment--made for Pad Thai
  • bulgur: tabbouleh
Thanks for any bulk tips you've got!

Oh those 80s... the 1680s

Have you ever found yourself asking this question: "Did Mme de Montespan, long-time mistress of Louis XIV of France and mother of 7 of his children, participate in grisly satanic rituals that may have involved human sacrifice?" If you were wondering this or have suddenly started to wonder, may I recommend Anne Somerset's The Affair of the Poisons: Murder, Infanticide & Satanism in the Court of Louis XIV. (St. Martin's, 2004)

Here's why I liked this book. First, it fell into 3 memorable parts. First is the lurid tale of the trial & torture of Mme de Brinvilliers and her associates. (Apparently the official trend in late 17th century Paris was to torture everybody before executing them in various horrible ways. The idea was to see if they said anything extra interesting under torture. Unfortunately for the prosecutors, the accused often revoked whatever they'd said once the torture was over, but that didn't keep them from trying.) Brinvilliers was accused of poisoning various people including her father and siblings. People were horrified that a) a Marquise like her could do something so vile and b) poison was such a sneaky way to kill someone... who ELSE was using it? This first part served to introduce the official methods used against poisoners, and also the paranoia about the possible pervasiveness of poison.

I was very grateful for the next part of the book, which was basically about Louis XIV's sex life. This may seem odd based on the title, but it turns out that his various mistresses and loves are very important because they make things interesting and helped me remember parts of Louis' timeline much better (1660s? Together with Louise de la Vallière. 1670s? Mme de Montespan was in full swing. 1680-ish? He was into the teenage Mlle de Fontanges. After that? Mme de Maintenon, his 2nd secret wife, took him over.) I find if there's a bit of real story involved, historical events become much more juicy and interesting and real. Also, they are important here because much of the Affair of the Poisons either involves allegations of mistresses wanting to poison each other or the King, or other people wanting to poison any of the above.

The rest of the book is a systematic description of the actual "Affair of the Poisons." This was made up of the various interrogations and trials and tortures overseen by the Chambres Ardentes, a secret tribunal that met, in this case, from 1679-1681. They examined and punished a slew of black priests, divineresses, alleged poisoners and their unfortunate (and perhaps often innocent) associates. For what is basically a 300-year old court transcript, this was a good read. There seemed to be a pattern: the officials would get a name of some miscreant associated with poisoning. They would arrest that person and throw him or her into prison. Then there would be a series of interrogations during which the person would remember more and more details about all kinds of people and activities. The more often a person was questioned, the more crazy and gruesome stuff they came up with. Dead babies, bird entrails, conspiracies, abortions, black masses, strange powders, and all sorts of interconnections between the Parisian underworld and the aristocracy. The person would name a bunch of other people he or she had worked with, and then the officials would go out and arrest those people and start the process over again.

Once someone didn't have anything new and interesting to confess, they would be tried and often executed. That is, unless the person was of noble blood. Only a few of these were actually arrested and none were tortured or killed. Others were warned in time to flee the country, and others were just excused by Louis XIV who decided that they must be innocent so not to bother with them. Among these... Mme de Montespan. It seems that Anne Somerset does not think Montespan actually participated in demonic rituals, nor did she really want to kill the King who, after all, was the father of most of her children and her meal ticket to Versailles.

Beau Oui comme Bowie

The title of this post comes from an old Isabelle Adjani song that cracks me up just by existing. Crazy stuff happens when you collaborate with Serge Gainsbourg, I guess. (Other faves from the same album are "D'un Taxiphone" and "Ohio." Vive 1984!)

During this past Beef Jerky Time I decided that my favorite David Bowie album is Low. It wasn't hard to pick. Unlike certain people I live with, I am not familiar enough with Bowie's prolific works to have much trouble deciding. Basically my choices were either Let's Dance, which I like a lot (vive 1983!), or Low. I pick Low because it seems more consistent and solid and interesting. More freshman year university, when things were new and cool and strange. While "China Girl" and "Modern Love" and "Let's Dance" are fantastic songs, that's all I ever listen to from Let's Dance. But Low is great all the way through! Incidentally, I just checked out the Bowie section of our CD rack and discovered 16 green-tinged Ryko discs. None of them are mine... I think I have a lot to learn here.

Here's the playlist from this edition of Beef Jerky Time, 2*11*09:
  • Salt: Rafter
  • Cool It Now: New Edition
  • Star Sign: Teenage Fan Club
  • Tunnelvision: Here We Go Magic
  • Crown Victoria: Robbers on High Street
  • Ghost of Genova Heights: Stars
  • Microphone: Coconut Records
  • Up Against the Wall: Peter Bjorn & John
  • Kids with Guns (Hot Chip remix): Gorillaz
  • Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others: The Smiths
  • Take Me To the Riot: Stars
  • What in the World: David Bowie
  • 1963: New Order

Midas Touch: Love, Love, Love It

I'm taking time out of my busy schedule of not drinking to drink a Midas Touch (part of my food blog gift) and try to describe its greatness. I first heard about this Dogfish Head beer from an article in the Nov. 24, 2008 issue of The New Yorker. In "A Better Brew," Burkhard Bilger describes how Sam Calagione, the Dogfish Head guy, is part of "the rise of extreme beer." He comes up with all kinds of crazy brews and techniques, and one of the results is Midas Touch. It's kind of a creative anachronism beer. Apparently an archaeologist guy that Calagione knows analyzed the residue from a drinking vessel found in a tomb. It was dated 730 B.C. He "pieced together the liquid's main ingredients: honey, barley, and grapes, and a yellow substance that was probably saffron. It was beer, but like none we've ever tasted." (p. 98) This is what inspired Midas Touch. The label says it's a "Handcrafted Ancient Ale with barley, honey, white muscat grapes & saffron."

To me, Midas Touch beer tastes a lot like perfume. I've said that about beer before, but this is the first time I've meant it in a good way. Specifically, it reminds me of Caesar's Woman, the signature scent from Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. I hope that doesn't make it sound tawdry, because I think Caesar's Woman smells like a large wonderful bowl of warm, perfect grapes, sitting in the low sunshine of a Mediterranean evening in an air redolent of spices and strange flowers. It's pretty nice, and a nice taste to find in a beer. I don't really understand how the flavor of grapes gets retained , because usually when something is fermented it loses its original flavor. Hard cider doesn't taste like apple juice. Wine doesn't taste like grape juice. How can this taste so prettily of grapes? Perhaps they're added later in the brewing process and so not completely fermented. Or maybe white muscat grapes are just magical.

Because this is 9% alcohol, I decided to treat it like champagne and pour it into a tall flute. It makes a nice picture, but just put it in a proper pint glass because it is a BEER, not a chi-chi spritzer. It turns my tummy to gold.

Side note: the article mentioned above got me really into all kinds of Dogfish Head brews. Recommended.

Farfalloni with pesto

We buy a semi-local pesto (made in NH) made by VegetaBall's Farm. It is really good. We get a large tub (12 ounces) for about $9 and use half right away, freezing the rest for later. We find half the tub will dress about a pound of pasta. I'm rather fussy about pesto, finding some kinds taste too insipid or oily and others have a strange pong. But VegetaBall's is always fresh, bright green, perfect proportions of ingredients, and if you think about it, a pretty good deal. I figure this by calculating how much it would cost to buy enough basil, pine nuts, olive oil and cheese to make my own--I think it would be more.

I used VegetaBall's on a pound of pasta last night and the results were delicious. I was using Delallo Organic pasta. The package for "Farfalloni No. 88" makes a big deal about them being "made with bronze plates." Apparently the bronze plates give each piece of pasta a rougher surface, so it takes sauce really well. I don't know if it's just that I'm a sucker for good copy (witness my love-hate relationship with the J. Peterman catalog, which makes Talbot's-type clothes sound like they've just stepped out of a Merchant Ivory movie) but I did find these little bowties to be just the perfect toothsome vehicle for my favorite pesto. I also threw in a thinly sliced sauteed zucchini--just cuz I like to sneak vegetables into everything. (Trying to fool myself, mostly.)

Yes substitutions

Since I stopped drinking alcohol and coffee I have found a new love. Something that's just so sweet to me. That still provides those post-prandial calories and carbs that my body seems to have formerly gotten from beer. Great for eating in front of a big TV with a very small spoon. It is this:

Contents: Moosetracks ice cream (vanilla with fudge swirl and peanut butter cup), Chocolate fudge FroYo (srsly, Ben & Jerry's has actually named their frozen yogurt "FroYo"), chocolate syrup, whipped cream from a can

I'm kind of worn out this Friday eve with the spectre of filing my taxes (So which online 1040 free-file is the best? Let me know if you have advice...) looming, plus being generally discombobulated by having a bunch of work done on the house (end result: ceilings no longer moldy, well-insulated at last), and having a very small person wanting to take the s l o w e s t bath in the world and then read every book twice before I can finally bid good-night and go eat the Amy's Country Vegetable Pie that's been waiting patiently for me in the oven. And there is still much to do. I got THREE new magazines today that must be perused, got 2 more hand-me-down magazines at work to devour, plus my InterLibrary Loan about Louis XIV and the Affair of the Poisons is due next Thursday and I'm only on Chapter 2. Also, laundry. First, I will curl up with my Moosetracks and vegetate.